Low-end Nokia smartphoes have helped Windows Phone grab eight percent of smartphone sales in Europe's five major markets, but the would-be third platform to Android and iOS is struggling to move the needle in the US, according to new figures.
Android and iOS dominance of smartphone sales in all markets remains unshakeable, but Microsoft's mobile platform reached new heights in the three months to July 2013 in Europe, making up 8.2 percent of sales across UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, according to the latest figures by Kantar World Panel. At the same time last year, Windows Phone accounted for 4.9 percent of sales in the five major markets.
Meanwhile in Europe, iOS accounted for 17.9 percent of smartphone sales, up from 14.8 percent last year, while Android climbed to 69.1 percent, up from 66.2 percent. BlackBerry meanwhile continued to slide, falling from 6.7 percent in the same period last year to 2.4 percent.
The bulk of new Windows Phone customers are not former iOS or Android consumers, but rather former feature phone owners who are less interested in Nokia's high-end devices like the Lumia 920 and 1020 than low-priced devices like the Lumia 520, which on a plan sell from £60 in the UK.
"Windows Phone's success has been in convincing first time smartphone buyers to choose one of its devices with 42 percent of sales over the past year coming from existing featurephone owners. This is a much higher proportion than Android and iOS. The Lumia 520 is hitting a sweet spot, offering the price and quality that new smartphone buyers are looking for," wrote Dominic Sunnebo, the firm's global consumer insight director.
In February, Kantar reported that first time buyers represented 47 percent of Windows Phone sales, while in the UK 17 percent of new Windows Phone owners had switched from Android. Now Kantar says that only 27 percent of Apple and Android users change their OS and those that do tend to move between the two OSes.
Sunnebo sees the feature phone owners becoming the "new battleground" over the next year, although in some developed markets like the UK, smartphone penetration has already hit 66 percent. Microsoft previously estimated there were still four billion feature phone owners in the world.
First-time buyers aren't having the same impact for Windows Phone in the all important US market, where the platform only made minor gains, reaching 3.5 percent of sales — up only 0.5 points — despite Nokia and Microsoft ramping up advertising and launching exclusive US devices with so-called "hero status" such as the Lumia 928.
The biggest gains in the US were made by Apple, with iOS up 7.8 percentage points year on year to 43.4 percent of sales in the three months to July 2013, according to Kantar. Android meanwhile fell from 58.7 percent of sales to 51.1 percent of US sales, as did BlackBerry, which declined from 1.9 percent year on year to 1.2 percent.
Windows Phone sales in Mexico were up from two percent last year to 12.5 percent in the latest period, but consumers in the increasingly important Chinese market aren't biting at Microsoft's platform: Windows Phone sales in China declined from 4.6 percent last year to 2.4 percent, according to Kantar.
In China, Android accounts for 70 percent of sales, up from 60.1 percent, followed by iOS, which declined 3.9 percent.